Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The family and I were sitting at Five Guys, having yummy burgers and fries on a Sunday afternoon. My son, age 7, wants to be a pop star like Justin Bieber, so the Biebs is one of his heroes. (Hey, it could be worse.)
My MIL was talking to Ashton about Justin Bieber. He mentioned that Selena Gomez is his girlfriend. My MIL looked taken aback, and she asked, "How do you know that?" He just shrugged and pointed at me. He said, "I learned it from Mom. She does research."
I laughed SO HARD that I thought I was going to choke! He knows that every now and then (okay, honestly probably more than that), I like to catch up on my celeb gossip on the computer. And once in a while, he'll come over and say, "Who's that?" and I'll tell him what I feel is appropriate for a 7-year-old to know. (My favorite was when he was aghast at the picture of Lady Gaga in the meat dress. "WHO would do something like that? That is DISGUSTING.")
The funniest thing to me was that he called it research! It's just a guilty pleasure, a time-waster. But then, the teacher in me started to think. Is it research?
Right now, I'm planning an expository writing unit, complete with a final research project. In my quest to keep in mind the needs of 21st century learners, perhaps I need to broaden my view of "research."
Let's think about it. What are kids looking at on the Internet? Things that interest them, right? Maybe for a few of them, it's Bieber. For some, it's skateboarding tricks. Others are looking at YouTube videos (Lord help us all), downloading music from iTunes, or watching upcoming movie trailers.
As our students do that, though, they're READING. To LEARN something new. They are building on their prior knowledge of their interests, learning something new, thereby broadening that knowledge base. Later, on the bus, the playground, or in a text message, they are sharing what they've learned with other kids. That's research, isn't it?
So, perhaps my love of celebrity gossip and the time I devote to learning more about it isn't useful research. But I like it, and I'm using a lot of the research steps when I check up on Jennifer, George, Kim, Kate, Brad... er... well, you know. I'm thinking about ways I can use the kids' interests to help our culminating research project be even more meaningful. I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head tonight, but nothing down on paper just yet. I'm excited to get started!
And to think, this all started with my 7-year-old's hysterically serious declaration about mommy's "research!"
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Kids have time for independent reading in our classroom. Yep - every kid. Time to read silently. I love it!
I have even been accused of being crazy. I have a few kids who have been hooked on a book series, but I only have perhaps books one and two, so I will invite the student over to my table, get on my laptop, and order the rest of the books in the series from Amazon with One-Click. (Thank goodness for free shipping from Amazon Prime!)
And one of my most favorite things that we do? We allow our kids to select their own books to read. Yes, it's true. When I teach the standards, it is quite possible that I'm teaching a reading standard to 55 different novels. Scary? Sure. Effective? You bet. It has made an amazing difference in our classrooms! Our kids are reading more, it seems, than ever before.
1) Compared to your other years in elementary school, do you think you are reading
a) the same amount as in previous years
c) less than in previous years.
2) If you answered that this year, you are reading more, why do you think that's true?
So far, in 2 days, 1 student has said that he reads the same, and 17 students say that they are reading MORE. Enthusiasm!
I was also pleased when the students told me what made the difference. Here's the breakdown:
*7 students said, "My teacher loves to read, and she encourages me to read." (Pass me a tissue!)
*4 students said, "We are allowed to choose our own books to read." A true testament to the power of self-selected books!
*3 students said, "My teacher helps recommend books to me that she thinks I will like."
*2 students said, "We have time in class for silent reading."
*1 student said, "We have a lot of books in our classroom."
If I had to recommend any tips for a teacher who wants her students to read more, here's what I'd say:
1) Read. A lot. And tell your kids, and
2) Let kids choose their own books to read!
If you follow a scripted reading program at your school, then I understand that sometimes you have to have more structure. However, if you can find a time during the year, or a little bit of time during the day, for your kids to choose their own books - do it! You'll be amazed at the difference it will make!
In 8 weeks, my students have read between 3 and 22 books each! Enthusiasm for them! They are proud of themselves, and I'm pretty darn proud of them too.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
You can Google them to find out more information if you are interested, or you can download the bookmarks I created to use these strategies in my classroom. They work for ALL of my students, and they encourage higher-order thinking from everyone. Click here for Six Hats and here for SCAMPER.
We also use a lot of Bloom's Taxonomy in our reading classrooms. Click here to download the bookmarks for fiction and nonfiction books that the kids use to ask EACH OTHER higher order thinking questions about their reading! This lets me sit back and listen, working as referee, coach, and diagnostician all at once.
If you choose to use these, please email me your feedback! Enjoy!
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Here's a quick set of directions on how to make your tech student-friendly.
Find the Settings on the device. Once it opens, click "General." Then find and click on "Restrictions."
Here it will ask you to set up a 4-digit code for your restrictions. For your sanity's sake, make it something you can remember.
Once you enter that information, you'll be able to restrict certain things. Here's a rundown of what I have restricted on my devices in my classroom.
Safari - ON
YouTube - OFF
Camera - ON (I want them to use this for projects)
FaceTime - OFF
iTunes - OFF (I don't want them downloading their own music)
Ping - OFF
Installing Apps - OFF
Deleting Apps - OFF
Location - OFF
Accounts - OFF
In-App Purchases - OFF (for obvious reasons)
Ratings for - United States
Music & Podcasts - Explicit OFF (again, obvious)
Movies - G
TV Shows - NONE
Apps* - ALL
*A word of caution: You may be tempted to limit the age on your apps. That seems to be common sense. However, many apps you will want your student to use (like Dictionary.com) are 17+! INSANITY! It is safe that if you have the Installing Apps and iTunes Store set to OFF, then whatever you have downloaded is safe for them to use.
I hope this helps you start the process of getting your devices student-ready!
I have the free Scrabble downloaded. Yes, it's free, but as two of my lovelies were playing "Pass & Play" (where you share the device, you just pass it back and forth when your turn is over), I noticed that there was an ad every few turns. It was a stupid 30-second ad, but in my opinion, that's totally annoying. I think it's totally worth the $1.99 for the full app where you don't have to worry about ads in the game!
That goes for several of the games for the iPod and iPad. My advice? If it's less than $2, spring for it. It's worth it.
How do we broke-as-all-get-out teachers pay for apps? I just put iTunes gift cards on my Wish List. It goes out on my classroom blog every so often for parents, and they never let me down! When they know I am buying good word game apps to help engage their kids in learning, parents are happy to provide. Just don't be afraid to ask!
Now, I will say that some free games are ad-free, so the bottom line is this: be sure to check the comments in the App Store before you buy!
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Perhaps you've been blessed enough to get some cool tech gadgets like these in your classroom, but you're not sure what to do with it. We all have ideas of all the cool things we can do with it, but when it comes time to set up your iTunes account and start loading things onto your iPad or iPod, where do you begin?
I'm hoping to write a few posts with some updates on apps I love and how I use them. Please share with me things you love, too, and I'll add them to the list!
In the picture for this blog post, you will see one of my students using an iPod Touch to play the NY Times Crossword Puzzle. It's tough, but they like to work on this together. It helps them to work collaboratively and work on spelling and vocabulary skills simultaneously. What's not to love? This is a FREE app!
Here are a few other free apps I like:
Cut the Rope (Lite) - this teaches students critical thinking as they have to plan ahead several steps in order to successfully get all 3 stars and feed the candy to the monster. You could also purchase the full version for $0.99.
BrainPop - this has several videos to choose from. If you are familiar with BrainPop, you know how informative these short animated videos can be! Students can even take the quizzes after watching. They can keep track of high scores and try to beat the scores of other students or beat their own scores. It does not have the full repertoire of videos available on the website; it has 3 for math, 3 for science, 3 for language, 3 for arts, etc. It's a great app to have!
Google Earth - this is just super cool. Get it. That's all I have to say. I know that there are TONS of ways to use Google Earth in the classroom, but I can't even begin to share them because I know that I haven't explored its full array of offerings. But let your kids get on it and play. They'll learn more than you could anyway. :)
Dragon Dictation - this allows your kids to record their voices, and it will dictate what they have said. It's not 100% error free, but it's pretty close. Kids like to record and listen to themselves, plus it's great for kids who have super ideas but, for various reasons, have difficulty writing or typing.
That's all for now - but I hope to be adding more posts soon with lots of other free or cheap apps!
Friday, August 5, 2011
Without further ado, enjoy!
The Creation of the Teacher
The Good Lord was creating teachers. It was His sixth day of 'overtime' and He knew that this was a tremendous responsibility for teachers would touch the lives of so many impressionable young children. An angel appeared to Him and said, "You are taking a long time to figure this one out."
"Yes," said the Lord, " but have you read the specs on this order?"
…must stand above all students, yet be on their level
... must be able to do 180 things not connected with the subject being taught
... must run on coffee and leftovers,
... must communicate vital knowledge to all students daily and be right most of the time
... must have more time for others than for herself/himself
... must have a smile that can endure through pay cuts, problematic children, and worried parents
... must go on teaching when parents question every move and others are not supportive
... must have 6 pair of hands.
"Six pair of hands, " said the angel, "that's impossible"
"Well, " said the Lord, " it is not the hands that are the problem. It is the three pairs of eyes that are presenting the most difficulty!"
The angel looked incredulous, " Three pairs of eyes...on a standard model?"
The Lord nodded His head, " One pair can see a student for what he is and not what others have labeled him as. Another pair of eyes is in the back of the teacher's head to see what should not be seen, but what must be known. The eyes in the front are only to look at the child as he/she 'acts out' in order to reflect, " I understand and I still believe in you", without so much as saying a word to the child."
"Lord, " said the angel, " this is a very large project and I think you should work on it tomorrow".
"I can't," said the Lord, " for I have come very close to creating something much like Myself. I have one that comes to work when he/she is sick.....teaches a class of children that do not want to learn....has a special place in his/her heart for children who are not his/her own.....understands the struggles of those who have difficulty....never takes the students for granted..."
The angel looked closely at the model the Lord was creating.
"It is too soft-hearted, " said the angel.
"Yes," said the Lord, " but also tough, You can not imagine what this teacher can endure or do, if necessary".
"Can this teacher think?" asked the angel.
"Not only think," said the Lord,. "but reason and compromise."
The angel came closer to have a better look at the model and ran his finger over the teacher's cheek.
"Well, Lord, " said the angel, your job looks fine but there is a leak. I told you that you were putting too much into this model. You can not imagine the stress that will be placed upon the teacher."
The Lord moved in closer and lifted the drop of moisture from the teacher's cheek. It shone and glistened in the light.
"It is not a leak," He said, "It is a tear."
"A tear? What is that?" asked the angel, "What is a tear for?"
The Lord replied with great thought, " It is for the joy and pride of seeing a child accomplish even the smallest task. It is for the loneliness of children who have a hard time to fit in and it is for compassion for the feelings of their parents. It comes from the pain of not being able to reach some children and the disappointment those children feel in themselves. It comes often when a teacher has been with a class for a year and must say good-bye to those students and get ready to welcome a new class."
"My, " said the angel, " The tear thing is a great idea...You are a genius!!"
The Lord looked somber, "I didn't put it there."
Thursday, July 28, 2011
If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, there's a book we'd like to recommend to you: The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller.
This book has done more than change my life; it has revolutionized the way I teach reading. It has also dramatically altered the way our students view books.
I had been teaching reading the same way for several years. It was mostly effective, I thought, so it was okay. However, one thing was consistently bugging me. The kids who didn't do well on the state tests continued to perform poorly on those tests - even though I was teaching my heart out, even though they went to extra reading classes, even though I went to countless meetings to learn new ways to help these struggling readers.
I felt discouraged. I felt like a bad teacher. I didn't know what else to do for these students who truly needed an exceptional reading teacher. And I honestly didn't feel like I was the person they deserved. I needed a change. For my classroom, for myself, and - most importantly - for the students.
The change I needed came in the form of the whispered secrets from Donalyn Miller's book. I want to share a short passage from this book with you. See if it resonates with you the way it did with me. Then keep reading to see how I started the change in my own reading classroom.
"Why do developing readers continue to struggle in spite of every intervention effort? Well, the key might be in the amount of reading these students actually do. Reading policy expert Richard Allington explains in What Really Matters for Struggling Readers that when he examined the reading requirements of Title I and special education programs, he discovered that students in remedial settings read roughly 75 percent less than their peers in regular reading classes. No matter how much instruction students receive in how to decode vocabulary, improve comprehension, or increase fluency, if they seldom apply what they have learned in the context of real reading experiences, they will fail to improve as much as they could.
The fact that students in remedial programs don't read much has serious consequences for developing readers. Students who do not read regularly become weaker readers with each subsequent year." (Miller, p.24-25)
This passage was the lightbulb moment I needed! Donalyn's struggles were my struggles. Her ideas made sense. It was time to do something with the knowledge she shared.
I read this book in January of this past school year. I devoured it, as a matter of fact. I went on to read other books that the author recommended. I immediately made changes to my classroom. I remember the first day of the "new regime" very well. Prior to reading The Book Whisperer, I had photocopied ahead of time several weeks' worth of reading skill practice sheets. I passed out the copies for all of the students, per usual as part of our Monday morning routine. Then I did something that was NOT routine. I asked the students to rip their papers in half. And then to rip them again.
All of the students were shocked. Some of them just stared; others whispered to their neighbors, "Do you think she's serious?" It was a glorious moment!
After a few moments of stunned silence, a brave soul ripped her paper in half. When I smiled, the other students followed suit. When the ripping was done and the fruits of our labor placed in the recycling bin, I instructed the students to pull out their book of choice - if they didn't have a self-selected book to read, then they were to choose one - and read. Just read. Enjoy your reading class.
Students who hadn't already selected a book to read of their own choice followed me to the bookshelf, and I sat in the floor and started making recommendations. After a bit, all of the students were reading books they chose for themselves in corners, on pillows, and under desks. It is a "lesson" I will savor forever.
I remember receiving phone calls from parents that evening. The kids were thrilled! The parents were impressed, but a little worried. "Just reading?" they asked. I asked them to trust me, and to give it time. I assured them that I didn't stop teaching reading (for heaven's sake, of course not!), but that the basis of a reading class should be READING. I'm really glad everyone agreed, because it was the best change I have ever made in my classroom.
While I still teach the reading standards, teach a mini-lesson to the whole group, conduct small reading groups based on skill needs, and conduct reading conferences, the basis of my reading program is self-selected reading for every child.
Admittedly, it is hard to find time for students who leave the room every day for extra reading instruction to have daily independent reading, but it is something I encourage every reading teacher to find time for in his or her schedule. Independent reading time for books the students choose for themselves is crucial.
If you are looking for a reading class transformation, read this book. It is amazing. You will love it - I know I did.
For more information on the amazing Donalyn Miller and The Book Whisperer, visit her blog: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/book_whisperer/ You can also follow her on Twitter: @donalynbooks
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
|My new school organization stuff - woot!|
But, I am taking summer classes, and lots of them, so that helps raise my geek status.
Why all the talk about geekiness, you ask?
On the way to my class, I heard on the radio that today is Embrace Your Inner Geek Day! I love the idea of this holiday. I'm the teacher who wears her "Nerdy" shirt to school on Fridays. Literally, I've had a shirt embroidered with the word "Nerdy" on it. I'm a self-proclaimed nerd (but unfortunately not the level of nerd who can fix your computer). I love being nerdy! It's something I'm proud to embrace.
So, on the radio, the DJs were asking everyone what they were geeky about. I'll tell you about myself. I'm geeky about school stuff. Crazy geeky about school stuff! I love school supply shopping, I love buying organizing shelves and baskets, I love making documents for school - I love it all! School stuff totally geeks me out.
How about you? What things make you feel geeky?
Thursday, July 7, 2011
a) hold me accountable, and
b) make suggestions for me to read.
My team and I use Donalyn Miller's book, The Book Whisperer, to guide our reading instruction. She gives her students a 40-book goal for the year. Thus, I am going to give myself a 40-book goal for the coming school year, which I will start August 8th.
I need to create a plan for reading. I will also ask my students to make goals and plans for their reading. This is a huge goal, and it's something we will all have to work hard to accomplish.
Donalyn has laid out an outline for the 40-book goal. Here's how she breaks down the 40 books by genre:
Poetry Anthologies: 4
Traditional Literature: 3
Realistic Fiction: 5
Historical Fiction: 4
Science Fiction: 2
Biographies, Autobiographies, Memoirs: 2
Graphic Novels: 1
Chapter Book Free Choice: 11
I still want to read some kids' lit (so I can continue to make quality recommendations for my students), and I think that will cover the majority of my list. However, I want to focus right now on what I should read from authors targeting the grown-up folks.
Frankly, I haven't paid much attention to any "grown-up" books except for professional development. Don't get me wrong, I love me some good PD books! But I think it's time I branched out.
I already know what I want to read for my Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs selections. I'd like to read Jaycee Dugard's memoir, A Stolen Life. I also want to read Tina Fey's book, Bossy Pants.
I also have a good informational book, a historical account of the shark attacks of 1916. It's called Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo. Another information book I'd like to read is The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Both are sitting on my side table in the living room.
In the fantasy genre, I'd like to read one or two of the Percy Jackson books again. I love to reread some of my favorite books, and I want to model that this is okay for the kids as well. My absolute favorite books to reread are the Harry Potter books, and I am currently reading through the series for the fourth time.
For historical fiction? I definitely want to read The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I feel a little guilty reading a book because it's becoming a movie, but that's a very legitimate way to hear about a book, especially in this era. I feel sort of like I'm jumping on the bandwagon, but that's okay, right, as long as I'm reading more?
The rest? I just don't know where to start. There are so many great authors out there, and I haven't read many fiction books targeted to my demographic in a long time. In my defense, I've read a lot of children's lit so I could be more useful to my students. I want to model for them, though, reading books that are appropriate. So, this is an area in which I can start to grow!
Where do you find book reviews? Who do you look to for advice on what to read? Who is your favorite author? Do you have a title you can recommend?
Friday, July 1, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
I have been working for a few months to continue to add books to my class library. I have used some special PTA funds from a fundraiser to buy tons of books from our local book exchange. I have spent countless dollars of my own on new books for the classroom. In my mind, it is money very well spent!
Now that I have all these wonderful books to feed my students' minds, I have to be extra careful to keep track of them. I want to be sure they come back to me for future students to enjoy as well. I have a little notebook keeping track of books checked in and out. It's working...okay.
However, I love technology and have recently decided I wanted to keep up with my classroom library electronically. I wanted originally to order a scanner and software. Um, that's expensive, folks! I'd rather spend that moolah on books.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
I have enjoyed learning about Prince William's fiancee, Kate Middleton. I think she's a gorgeous young woman, poised, and ready to thrive in her new position as Princess. I am unabashedly following all news of the Royal Couple!
I was caught a little off guard today when I read a headline stating that Kate had been bullied at her prep school. I read the article and was disgusted by the things that her classmates did to her because she was "too nice."
I am glad to know that, through it all, she seems to have maintained her sense of being nice. I was pleased to see that William and Kate have listed an organization known as Beatbullying (beatbullying.org) as a charity for people to donate to in lieu of giving the couple wedding gifts.
All of this, of course, led me to start thinking about bullying on our side of the Atlantic. There are many worldwide organizations designed to raise awareness about bullying. I looked up organizations for the US and found StopBullying.org. There is a lot of helpful information on this site for kids, parents, and educators alike. I am pleased to see such awareness about such a crippling, humiliating, and devastating matter.
Kids have heard the whole "don't bully" song and dance before though. Yet bullying continues. We teach them to stand up for each other on the playground. Yet bullying continues. We, as parents and educators, keep on heightened alert during down time. Yet bullying continues. What else can we do to combat such a thing?
The picture I've included is the cover art for for Katherine Erskine's beautiful novel, Mockingbird. It is about a fifth grade girl named Caitlin who has Asperger's Syndrome. Caitlin is mercilessly bullied and picked on for her odd behaviors. She is also alienated because her brother, Devon, was murdered in a school shooting at his middle school.
As I read this poignant story, I found myself moved to tears more than once. I felt like I truly connected with Caitlin as the author helped me to better understand the thoughts that someone with Asperger's might have. I felt like, through a novel, I was able to actually get in someone else's very different shoes and understand her. Though this story has many sad events, there are some joyful triumphs as well. It left me feeling awed and respectful of those with difficult diagnoses, and it gave me hope about the fate of humankind.
According to the author, this moving story was inspired by the tragedy of events from the Virginia Tech shootings. At the end of the novel, Erskine asserts that, "by getting inside someone's head, really understanding that person, so many misunderstandings and problems can be avoided - misunderstandings and problems that can lead to mounting frustration and, sometimes, even violence."
As a teacher, I feel it is my duty to continue to give the "don't bully" song and dance. I will continue to learn more about how to stop bullying and what to do about bullies from organizations like StopBullying.org.
However, one of the best things I think I can do, especially as a teacher of reading, is to share stories like Mockingbird with my students. I want them to experience firsthand the terrors of bullying in a safe way, through a lovely, complex character like Caitlin. I want them to struggle along with her, feel her frustrations and agony, and join in her triumphs. Hopefully, if I read this story to my students, they will be able to do things that Katherine Erskine wishes for - true understanding.
Mockingbird was chosen as a Georgia Book Award Winner for 2011-2012. See a list of other award winners here.
Friday, February 11, 2011
I teach reading and the majority of class time is spent reading. When I do have whole class 'lecture' time it is short and sweet. One because I know that their attention is short and sweet and two because I think that most of their time in my room should be spent reading (thanks to The Book Whisperer). A short mini lesson to start the class, maybe a brief interruption if a one-on-one conference sparks the need, and a wrap up at the end. But are they listening?
It is not everyone and it is not all the time, but it is enough to make me wonder why. Why are the kids not listening? A few answers might be: over indulgence, lack of interest, lack of motivation, inability to attend, immaturity, distractions... (I could continue...). The one answer I have that beats them all out is the idea of learned helplessness. I think that we (parents, teachers, churches) are perpetuating this listening crisis. We say it again (even after we said we didn't want to), give more than a fair amount of 'second' chances, micro-manage the lives of the children in our lives. Why do they need to listen?
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I have a struggling reader. When I say struggling, I mean she struggles to get meaning from what she reads. If you were to listen to her read you might not know that she is understanding little because she does read quite well.
For months, I have been drilling into my students the idea that the only way to be successful on the upcoming state reading test is to read whatever they want as much as they want. It will be my job, as the teacher, is to provide any test prep they may need in addition. They just get to read, read, read. (Aren't they lucky?)
Like my colleague, I too was meeting with as many students as possible this morning. When I had a chance to meet with the struggling reader mentioned above I noticed two sticky note bookmarks in her book. When I inquired why she told me that one was her bookmark and the other was her goal for reading that day. It looked to me to be about 30 pages of reading. I immediately asked her to tell me as much as she could about her book. She beamed and rattled off a ton of details and events from her book.
I could tell that the effort she was putting into my reading teacher demands was paying off. She was reading.... truly reading and understanding. She was also setting personal goals for herself that were above my own requirements.
Love my job! I get to sharing the gift of reading! ~Lit Lady
Thursday, February 3, 2011
I started reading Hate That Cat to some of the kids today, and after 30 minutes of reading the poetry from this book, the kids got mad that I had to stop in order for them to go to art! I know, it sounds rather dubious, but they couldn't get enough of the book. As soon as we came back from art for about 15 more minutes of class before lunch, they begged me to read more.
It is the story of a boy named Jack, and he is a student in Ms. Stretchberry's class. He is writing in a poetry journal, and we see the thoughts (which he records in poetry form) that he writes to Ms. Stretchberry. It is apparent that the teacher writes back to him, but we only see Jack's entries. The teacher in me loves this for many reasons, but I especially love that it prompts my students to infer what Ms. Stretchberry has written to him. We've had some really thoughtful discussions about the missing parts of the conversation.
Jack discusses poetry terms, poetic devices, poetry analysis, and his favorite poets. He goes on a wondrous journey as a writer, and a lot of the life experiences he writes about are incredibly relatable for students. As I read aloud Jack's thoughts about onomatopoeia and alliteration, they laughed! As he learns some hard life lessons, some of the students cried along with me as I read. As a teacher, it was a glorious part of my day.
I'm going to go back and read Love That Dog to the rest of my students. If you read these, start with this one, then move on to Cat. Your students, boys and girls alike, even big old fifth graders, will LOVE this book about poetry. My ten and eleven year old students thoroughly enjoyed it. We traveled along an emotional roller coaster with this story today. They were hypnotized by the ideas and rhythms in the book. Anything that can grab them and hold them so firmly is well worth reading aloud (and rereading, for that matter). I already have several students who want to check both books out of my library once I am done reading them aloud.
Read these books. Your students will love them. I guarantee it.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The reason is that I care! I generally care about them and about the adolescents they are becoming. I care that requiring them to be attentive to a 10 - 15 minute lesson is not too much to demand of a fifth grader. I care that their future motivation and successes in school may depend upon me pulling them back daily.
I care about them~all of them ~ we all do. Our kids need to to hear that more. They need to understand and internalize that we (teachers) are not the enemy to be brought down with any opportunity.
There are very few teachers that are dong this to show a gain on standardized tests. Teachers are not in this in order to practice their classroom management skills of unruly and unmotivated students at every turn. I am not sure I have seen many teachers that see the joy in filling out referrals or dreaming up impossible tasks for students to labor over. (I know that they are out there... but they are probably not reading a teacher post called 'Nerdy, Nerdy, Nerdy'.)
We care! How do we get them to care at all?
The unfortunate thing is that we have to make a few enemies on the way to show how much we care and to get them to care as well. Nobody likes the trainer at the time of training, but at the end of the race. Filling the savings and retirement accounts is hard, but at the time of retirement, we are more than thankful. Why is learning and education so different?
This all seems very obvious as I read it over, but I am going to post it as a reminder to anyone that takes time to read (or to any teacher that is feeling the sting of these tough times). We care and the kids need to know that is why we are who we are and we do what we do.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Now, I realize that since I teach grammar, people probably pay more attention to things I type than other people (as in, non-grammar teachers). Because of this, I attempt to pay super close attention to my grammar in communications with parents and other people who know or care.
This morning, as I sent out the "Website Updated" email, there was [gasp] a typo! I wrote, "There is a lot of new, important notices on the website." UGH! It causes me intense physical pain just to see it written again!
In my defense, I originally typed, "There is a lot of new, important information on the website." I tend to overuse the word "information" when I communicate with parents, so I thought I'd be cool and change it to "notices." (Yes, I am acutely aware of the fact that using the word "notices" does not, in fact, make me cool. Stay with me, people.)
Well, I didn't realize that I had MASS EMAILED A TYPO to all of my students' parents. [Insert another gasp here.] It really bothered me! So of course, I sent out another email:
"Yes, there is a typo in my last email. I'm usually so careful!" Then I go on to tell everyone what I intended to say at first, and I admit to forgetting to change the verb agreement. I close with, "Whoops - I know I teach your children grammar - please forgive!"
I'm not sure which is worse: committing the grammarcide in the first place, or sending an email to point it out and apologize in a rather pitiful way.
[Sigh] I guess I can't win 'em all...
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
I also think that the kids are amazed when I can tell they are not reading. As an avid reader, teacher, and mother, I know what real reading looks like from across the room. A 'staged' reader is like a siren with flashing lights in my room.
We have to grab those readers gently. Place the right book in their hands at the right time. An almost impossible task! Right?
Here is what I have been trying. I start every year with a shared reading - The BFG by Roald Dahl. It is a funny fantasy about people eating giants. We stop frequently, discuss freely, and reread the funny parts. I do with them the same thing I do alone when I read. Follow that with viewing of the movie and a compare and contrast essay about the book ~ it is a winning combination. I will usually see a few copies of The BFG or other titles by Roald Dahl being carried around by those that I have successfully 'grabbed'.
Then it is time for step 2... pay attention and model, model, model. I ask about the books they get from the library. I read the titles I see a lot. I conference and recommend. I get in the zone with them. I ask them to read to me. I continue to read to them. Gently grabbing the reader in all of them.
Reading is living. Reading is understanding. Reading is a gift ~ share it.
Monday, January 17, 2011
What a weird mission, right? Probably. But I love the idea! I hate that there are still some kids today who feel like being "too smart" isn't cool, so they don't try as hard to achieve success. This doesn't just happen with older kids - it even starts with our younger students. This absolutely breaks my heart.
I do feel that it is probably better now than when I was a K-12 student, but this mentality still exists. Think about your own classroom. Do your students ever use the term "geek" or "nerd" to make fun of the smart kids in school? Have you ever heard of a student who doesn't want to be thought of as nerdy, but would much rather be cool? I know I've heard it.
I don't think of being geeky/nerdy as a bad thing! I certainly feel it's a compliment! I would describe myself as a big nerd, and I'm happily married to a geek I adore (I use the terms interchangeably, but I know there have been other blogs to define the proper usage of each term as they have separate meanings, but I won't go onto that right now). What I want to know is this: what can we do to bring geeky back?
Is it a matter of building self-esteem among the nerdy? Is it a matter of us embracing our own inner geeks to serve as confident role models for the future generations of geeky Americans?
I think it's easier in this age of gadgets and gizmos galore (please pardon that Disney reference). I personally think it's the nerds who will lead us into the future. So how do we get them to be proud of their intellect and push them to do more?
I'm personally a fan of making "Bring Geeky Back" teeshirts, but sometimes I take my ideas too far. Thoughts?